Gardening is rapidly becoming a popular hobby for many Americans, even with an increase in the number of people living in apartments and condos. Getting your hands dirty may seem challenging when faced with a small space, but all the space necessary to have a successful garden is a window, ledge, patio or balcony.
Bountiful produce crops can be found in all sorts of places aside from farms or the market. Fresh herbs and vine-ripened tomatoes can easily be grown in a home or on a patio. Simply find a sunny spot and get growing.
Getting started on a personal container garden:
Location: The first step to growing fresh produce is evaluating the available space and light. A patio, balcony or porch is an ideal place for containers and hanging baskets. Lacking an outdoor space means more creative solutions. Consider some smaller pots, a window box or hanging baskets placed near a sunny window.
• Containers: Choosing a container for a garden is a lot of fun. There are really no conventional ideas of what gardens should look like. A personalized garden is an excellent way to express creativity, and virtually any container with adequate drainage can become a garden. Today it is easy to find an assortment of pots in varying sizes and shapes made from terra cotta, ceramic, concrete, wood or even recycled milk jugs. Additional non-traditional options include mixing bowls, tool boxes, 5 gallon pails, discarded sinks, straw bales and the Miracle-Gro Gro-Bag. This bag is a great new product that features durable packaging which acts as the container. Everything needed to plant a small garden is already in the bag. Just peel off the label and place seeds or plants in the three planting areas provided.
• What to grow: Once the perfect space and container for a garden are located, it’s time to decide what to grow. Herbs for cooking, tomatoes, salad greens and peppers are great choices for a container garden. Consider eggplants, green onions, cucumbers and strawberries for something new. If produce isn’t preferred, try growing annuals, perennials or even citrus in containers for a burst of color and a splash of green.
Seeds or plants: Good options for starting veggies indoors by seed are tomatoes, peppers, celery, cauliflower, head lettuce and eggplant. Produce that can be started either indoors or out are beans, peas, most lettuce and corn. To save time, nurseries and garden centers carry a wide variety of herbs and vegetables for transplanting as well. Make sure to select short, stocky plants that are not in bloom yet. These will be able to devote more energy to root development, ensuring a healthier start.
• Planting: Begin with a clean, well-drained container in a location that receives six to eight hours of sun each day. Place a coffee filter, small piece of screen or some loose pebbles over the drainage hole to ensure adequate water drainage, and to prevent soil from washing out the bottom. Next, add a high-quality potting mix that contains plant food such as Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Potting Mix or Miracle-Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix. Pop in seedlings or plants, making sure to loosen up any roots that appear to be restricted or curled up around the bottom of the starter container. Dig out a small area in the pot for each plant being sure to leave enough room between to allow for growth. A 24-inch pot can hold one tomato plant in the middle and a few herbs or greens around the edge. To cut down on the amount of watering, hide soil and add organic matter to pots; don’t forget to add a 1 to 2 inch layer of mulch to the top of the pots - even indoors. Scotts Nature Scapes Advanced Mulch is an excellent choice because it comes in a variety of colors.
• Maintenance: Once a container garden is planted, water thoroughly until some seeps out of the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot. Containers dry out more quickly than in-ground gardens, and will require watering daily or even twice a day when it’s very warm. Follow up with regular feedings by using Miracle-Gro Watering Can Singles All Purpose Water Soluble Plant Food. Just pour one pre-measured packet into a watering can and mix with a gallon of water every one to two weeks to keep plants nourished.
Large spaces are not essential in growing delicious vegetables for dinner or salads. With a minimal investment and some simple steps, spaces like patios, balconies and porches can be transformed into incredible, edible gardens.